November 14th, 2010

Enchanting Mermaid

Guess Who's Back In Circulation

Hey, kiddies!  Long time, no see!

Sorry I haven't posted much lately (at least, there were still the Stress Puppy strips to keep people from thinking I fell off the face of the Earth).  But I've been relaxing.  The new gig is busy and exhausting, but it's a good kind of busy and exhausting.  I know my job, I'm left to do it, when I do wrong, I'm told what I need to do to fix it.  I no longer have chest pains, and I can actually sleep through the night without nightmares about my job.

How are things going in my old position, now that Manager, Supervisor, and Carlton have what they want?  Well....

As anyone who has read my stuff will attest, I know angels.  And the worst is angels of vengence.  When they get busy, all you can do is move out of the way.  They are the nuclear option, there is no mercy.  And I moved just in time.

The previous Wednesday, when I was still on the job, the major account I work for decided to implement a new computer ordering system.

One they didn't beta.

On Wednesday, I was noticing the problem.  None of the orders were coming in, and the account's call center to report problems was "closed for a staff meeting."  All fuckin' day.  Right.  Keeping up wasn't that tough, it hadn't affected anything yet.  Next day, still nothing, and the call center to report problems to was STILL closed for a staff meeting.  I let everyone know that I could, but I could see this getting worse.  Friday rolls around.  I wind up calling the individual carriers and warehouses to get orders.  Time consuming, problematic, and a nightmare.  I had to stay an extra hour just to get it done.  The entire time, all I could think was, "Not my problem anymore."

At this point, I need to introduce one other participant in this.  He's the onsite rep for the account I handle.  He's a manipulator and a backstabber.  I'll call him "Chucklefart."  Chucklefart also wanted me gone from the position because I would stick to the warehouse's rules instead of just doing what he wanted.  His stock in trade was misdirection.  He would pretend to be on your side, but the problem was someone else -- "I would if I could, but you know what so-and-so is going to say, they'll say...."

We have new people running the place.  About two months ago, the warehouse's corporate office sent in a bunch of people to investigate something.  It took me a while to dig this stuff up, all my usual sources were either gone or hiding.  Seems there were a lot of things like people being allowed to be on the clock for overtime without actually being there.  The #1 at the site, the #2, the superintendent, the regional manager, and others were all gone in one day.  There was also a surprise drug test.  They didn't ask the usual questions about what drugs we might already be taking, so they were looking for something specific.  Twenty people got sacked for cocaine.  So we have a new staff unfamiliar with how things work and everyone running things.  Because people react to me so oddly, I was scared how I would be viewed.

Turns out, I wasn't the one who needed to be scared.  I took a couple of days off to decompress.  While I was gone, Chucklefart went through the main office and said, "Hey, look at me!  I'm Peter!"  He then hitched up his pants high and started walking, talking about how stressed out he was and how he refused to do things just because it wasn't allowed even though I could get away with it without anyone knowing.  Unbeknownst to him, the acting #2 had just come in and saw the whole thing.  Chucklefart didn't realize he was busted until #2 followed him into his office and closed the door.  I understand it was quiet loud on #2's part.

Strange thing -- when I came back the next day, that was when I got the offer to transfer to another department.  Like I said, when angels of vengence get to work, run like hell.

I should also point out that, on Friday, I was upstairs making some tea when Chucklefart came in (he doesn't know I know about his little act).  He asked if I was going to laugh at Carlton.  I said, no, I feel sorry for the guy, he has no idea what he's in for.  Chucklefart proudly declares, "Well, I'm going to laugh."  There's an old Polish proverb that says, A wolf remains a wolf, even if he has not eaten your sheep.  In that moment, I saw the wolf.

So, how has Carlton been doing?  Well....

#2 wants him to move to my old desk downstairs because that's where the managers and customer service and the's where the action is.  He refuses, and Manager has been blocking the move.

Monday, I get a call from a carrier, asking me to help with something because Carlton is screwing things up.  I say there's nothing I can do.  She says she's going to complain about Carlton and wants me back on the job.

Tuesday, I get called upstairs to Carlton's desk.  Manager and Carlton are confused about why a truck is done a certain way.  I explain why.  Manager asks me why I'm doing it that way because it's stupid.  I don't say, but I think, "YOU TOLD ME TO DO IT THAT WAY, AND WHEN I TRIED TO ARGUE, YOU THREATENED TO WRITE ME UP FOR INSUBBORDINATION, DIPSHIT!"  Manager also says, "You picked a fine week to leave, just as everything is going haywire."  I politely say I didn't plan this.  I think two things -- 1)  You picked a fine week to chase me out.  2)  Suffer, bitch.

Turns out, on Tuesday, Carlton almost walked, and Manager and Supervisor had to talk him into staying.  Tuesday, I get a call at home from one of my compatriots in customer service, saying everyone misses me because I didn't screw up the orders.  Things are being left off trucks, data is being entered incorrectly, all things that I never did.
Wednesday, my back-up and compatriot in the downstairs office (not customer service) has been press ganged into helping make sure Carlton isn't screwing things up.  It gets to the point where, about 1000, she went to see #2 about something, and as soon as he saw her, he facepalmed.  And it wasn't an act.  Also, a CSR is on the dock to check an order and sees me.  He dashes up and asks, "When you coming back?"  I said, I don't think I will, I'm enjoying where I'm at and they don't want me anyway.  He then leaned in and said, "When they ask you back, ask for more money."  I think, Wait, "When?"

Thursday.  More orders screwed up.  #2 is now insisting Carlton come downstairs.  Carlton doesn't want to leave his playmates.  #2 says he's going to get #1 to override Manager if he has to.

I'm wondering if #2 is trying to force out Carlton.  Carlton started on the dock.  Almost no one liked him, he would pass work off to others, get them blamed for his mistakes, and would accuse people of discrimination because he's black (HR had to do a few investigations because of him).  Then he moved to the shipping office, to keep him out of the way.  Kept screwing up orders, paperwork, and none of the drivers liked him.  So they moved him to my department, where he knew to make friends with Manager and Supervisor.  To the point where he hadn't done my job for more than an hour of training and was already coming up with suggestions for me to follow and they were implementing them.  Oh, and when he didn't do his usual duties and someone complained, he started another racial discrimination investigation against them.  Someone like that, you just dump them, they will sue.  If they walk, it's their fault.  Remember, I'm just in another department, I can be moved back at any time.  Oh, and I'm not supposed to know this, but my old position?  Manager is no longer in charge of it, #2 is.  And I'm already under his command in my current position.  So part of the nightmare, having to report to her, would already be over.

Now, I'm not assuming that's the truth, that this is some plan to see how the position really works, what all I really have to do, and get rid of one employee (they've been talking of downsizing the department anyway) in the process.  All I know is I've landed safely, and if I'm stuck doing this, I'm perfectly happy.  Life is imperfect, you don't get everything you want.  But the peace of mind is way beyond anything I had before.

Write What You NaNoWriMo

Ah, backlash.  Don't you just love it?

One of the things I love is when something officially becomes a cultural phenomena.  Pokemon, Harry Potter, video games, the Simpsons, all these things started off as something to do and became a part of culture.  How do you know when they've reached that point?  Simple.  People start writing pointlessly egotistical articles dismissing the value of it and asserting their superiority for not participating.  I keep thinking of the scene in Say Anything where John Cussack challenges his buddies who know all about women with cold logic, and it still doesn't phase them in the least.

So, who's the latest to go big time and gain an attack from a shallow narcissist?

Nation Novel Writing Month.

I don't hang out on  Just didn't see the point to it.  It's like Yahoo's news section without any other services.  I've likened it to Utne Reader -- we'll find the articles that you can relate to so you don't have to read and decide for yourself.  I'm guessing Laura Miller is a regular contributor to the site.  She decided to write a column called "Better yet, DON'T write that novel -- Why National Novel Writing Month is a waste of time and energy."  TL;DR -- since the goal is to just write 50,000 words regardless of quality, there's going to be a lot of crap being written, as the NaNoWriMo faq says.  So why bother?

Okay, I'm only going to deal with one specific part of this before I crap all over her opinion.  She mentions that writers are just writing stuff instead of learning the skills they need, such as revision, and that editors and agents are already flinching about the slapdash manuscripts they'll be receiving.  Take it from me -- all these "skills" that they say you should learn?  They don't guarantee success any more than just writing 50K words.  I should know.  Let's just focus on the comic book stuff.  No publisher will touch Sound Waves.  No one.  I haven't even gotten a response about Quantum Redshift, even after a follow-up, so I'm assuming it's dead in the water, too.  Plenty of people learn to write and draw comics like the mainstream, and they don't get picked up, either.  I had a professional crew working with me on all my Hard Way Studio projects.  Great artists, and not to sound arrogant, but I know I'm a good writer, I know what I'm doing.  The only projects picked up like The Supremacy were by Atomic Pop, and we did most of the campaigning, calling shops and such, not the publisher.  Bigger names, like Dark Horse, Image, etc.?  Nothing.  Instead, who is getting comic book series?  Michael Chiklis.  Jane Weidlen.  The lead singer for Fall Out Boy.  Trace Adkins.  Talent means DICK.  Publishers want some sort of recognition that will sell to an established audience of habitual buyers.  And guess what?  That means you could have the English skills of George Plimpton and the artistic skills of Jim Lee, John Byrne, and Jack Kirby combined, and if it's not something they feel they can make gobs of money on off a narrow audience, they won't take it.  Miller's suggestion is just as much a waste of time as what she feels NaNoWriMo is.

She also misunderstands the point of NaNoWriMo.  I used to do improv.  The hardest thing is starting a scene.  You need something to latch on to, some golden thread that you can weave everything around.  You know how many people can't get started on a story because they can't figure out, say, the perfect opening line or whatever?  NaNoWriMo is intended to short circuit that.  Because you need to get it done, you will be open to new directions and ideas.  And you may find that element towards the end that, when you go back and revise what you wrote to incorporate it better, makes all the difference.  Mickey Spillaine was once asked how he dealt with writer's block, when he got stuck writing a story.  His famous answer was, "I just have a gunman burst into the room and start shooting."  If you read the Mike Hammer books, you can see that.  And you know what?  It works.  Because it forces the plot in another direction instead of ending there.  This is also the reason for Holly in Stress Puppy.  If the plot bogs down, I inject her in, and because you never know what she's going to do, it spins things away from their intended direction.  A legitimate storytelling technique, done by the great (Spillaine) and not so great (Peter G), the heart of NaNoWriMo and more effective than Miller is willing to admit.

Now that that's out of the way, time for me to really wreck this self-important piece of bullshit.  One of Miller's suggestions for a better way to spend your time is how a couple of friends did a "10/10/10" challenge.  They read ten books in ten different catagories in ten months.  There's a lot of self-congratulatory, "Oh, I discovered someone new I never would have noticed without the challenge."  That is really stupid.  I try new stuff, from music to writers to whatever, all the time.  You just have to do it.  I will sometimes walk through a music store and just randomly pick out a CD to try.  At no point do I wait for some justifying influence.  She also posts how most Americans don't read one or two books a year.  Yeah.  WE'RE BUSY!  WE HAVE JOBS!  FAMILIES!  LIVES!  This is why movies are so popular -- you get a complete story in two hours.  Not only that, but if you look at the friggin' best seller lists, plenty of people are reading.  Some are even rereading, like the Twilight books or Harry Potter.  This has nothing to do with expanding horizons, but with establishing acceptable boundaries for what constitutes worthwhile reading and using that as proof of superiority.  I guarantee you none of the books they tried was something like my C++ Primer Plus.  They not only wouldn't have gotten through that in ten months, but I doubt they would have made heads or tails of it.  An educational volume that has real world applications if not artistic aspirations.  They won't consider that, just general catagories with unchallenging, easily digestable reads that they can stick in anyone's faces.

People like NaNoWriMo.  I don't participate, I don't need to.  I can't go very long without writing anything (as if I needed to prove that).  But other people need a kickstart.  These people have just as much right to do what they think is fun as Miller does.  The only difference?  They don't act like Miller is a loser for not sharing their passion.  It's easy to talk about the craft of writing when you've already made it as a professional and have thousands of people hanging on your every word.  But thinking that you've made it means you have all the answers doesn't make you right.  It just makes you a jackass.

State Of Confusion

Okay, time for me to jump back into bitching about politics.  Please notice I haven't put on my hipwaders yet, that's for the next post, where I examine the race for mayor of Chicago.  This is just Illinois in general, so while it's bad, it ain't as bad as what's coming.

So, we officially have Pat Quinn as our governor.  It didn't take long for him to drink the Kool Aid.  See, one of the reasons I like three-way races is because they keep people from claiming a mandate just because they got more than 50% of the vote.  Well, leave it to Quinn to prove me wrong.  Winning with only 46.6% of the vote and by only about 20,000 votes, he is telling reporters that voters want him to raise the state income tax to balance the budget -- "I think that is a really strong mandate that I got."  Gee, it's a lot easier to get a mandate nowadays than before, isn't it?

So, what's on the Illinois agenda to fix our budget?

*  Expanding gambling in Illinois.  Whether or not you like gambling is actually beside the point.  Last year, video gambling was legalized, putting another 45,000 terminals around the state.  How did that work out?  Not only has gambling revenue declined nationwide last year, but here in Illinois, revenues from 2009 are the lowest they've been since 2001.  Despite this, Sen. Terry Link (D - Waukegan) is introducing a 338 page bill that will expanding gambling even more in Illinois, including a casino for Chicago.

* Still nothing on the public pension bomb that is steadily reaching critical mass.  There is talk of converting future income from at 1998 settlement with tobacco companies to help stave this off.  Of course, if you can find someone willing to do it.  Remember, Illinois has the lowest credit rating of all 50 states.  All talk is about how much money they can get from "securitization" of the payout, not the high interest rates that Illinois taxpayers will be on the hook for to sell new bonds.

* The Ricketts family wants $300mil in bonds to renovate Wrigley Field, to be paid for with increased tourist taxes.  Nevermind that tourism is already down and McCormick Place, the largest convention center in the country, is seeing lots of unused days while the unions eat up money.  Cubs crap sells no matter how bad the team is, and they aren't willing to put up the coin themselves.  We are still paying for the White Sox new stadium.  We paid for renovations to Soldier Field to benefit a private enterprise, the Chicago Bears (which resulted in the rare feat of the government revoking Soldier Field's national landmark status).  Now, here we go again.  Although, to be fair, I have been to Wrigley Field.  The first time I went there, I had to go to the bathroom.  I walked into the men's room, with the trough, and said, "Screw it, I'll hold it," and by God, I did.  If it means decent bathroom, then it might be a bargain.

Something tells me the January session isn't going to be that much different.  Although I'm curious how everyone is going to vote.

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

I was considering, once the Loose Canons storyline wraps up for Stress Puppy, rerunning the Keeping Up With The Jones storyline, about the anti-smoking crusades.

Well, it just got a violent shove to the front of the que.

Keep in mind, I don't smoke.  I can't stand it.  But if others do, I let them.  First of all, it's an adult freedom.  If I don't like cigarette smoke, I don't go where the smokers are or I put up with it.  No point in everybody bending to my will.  Second of all, this is a waste of time.  As Raff points out in the KUWTJ storyline, EVERYBODY knows smoking is bad for them.  My personal opinion is that the anti-smoking campaigns have nothing to do with saving lives but instead being a perfect way to push people around.  After all, no one can deny that smoking is harmful, and lots of smokers want to quit.  It's a perfect target that is incapable of fighting back.

Now, they are trying to step things up.  There is a new anti-smoking campaign that will feature things like autopsied bodies and stuff to drive home the point that smoking is bad.  Once again, everyone already knows this.  They do it anyway.  Upping things like this makes it seem morbid.

As has been pointed out, good health is simply the slowest possible rate you can die.  Everyone has their vices that will kill them.  I love fatty foods.  I'll be targeted next.  Or maybe people who spend the weekends watching football and getting wasted.  I don't mean drunk drivers, I mean people who just stay home, pound the brewskis, drive the technicolor bus, and call it a weekend.  They aren't hurting anyone but themselves.  Where does this, "We're trying to save your life here!" end?
Ben Stein for Prez

The Election's Over? It Hasn't Even Started Yet!

Ah, you smell that?  That scent of bullshit?


My home turf, what I wanted to be when I started reading the news back in the fifth grade, examining political news and commenting on it.  I've been away for a while since the midterms, now it's time to get back into it.  Watch me sparkle.

So, yesterday, the Rahmfather, Rahm Emanuel, made his candidacy for mayor of Chicago official.  Today, James Meeks is going to make his official pronouncement.  No surprise on either of those parts, especially for Meeks, who stepped down from running his church last week to kneecap criticism that he couldn't run the city and his church at the same time.

Mike Madigan, head of the Illinois D's, is trying to extend an olive branch to the Rahmfather.  Yeah, we'll see how long that lasts.  The two do not get along, but Madigan doesn't have a candidate to back.  The most likely candidate, Tom Dart, ended his quest, saying he wanted to be with his family.  Sun Tzu wrote in The Art Of War that a good general fights an already defeated enemy.  The Rahmfather has projected an air of inevitability, a fait accompli, as we say in the small towns, that he will win.  It's certainly his to lose.  The three Chicago tribes have seen the major threats nullified.  Guitierez has refused to run, leaving Emanuel for the Hispanic tribe.  The only other threats, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle, are fighting for crumbs.  Daley's Hispanic Democratic Organization is the fastest to mobilize and they are behind Emanuel still.  In 2002, Emanuel was running for Congress.  City Hall sent workers to campaign for him on the clock for overtime and other perks like promotions.  The marching orders came from Don Tomczak, the head of the Water Department (currently in the stir) who took his orders from the top.

The white tribe?  They got no one.  They are an afterthought, they have no chance.

The black tribe?  Meeks could be a credible threat, but his support is being syphoned away by two other black competitors, US Rep Danny Davis and former US Senator Carol Mosely Braun.  Braun is only in this as a spoiler.  What's that?  You want me to prove it?  Okay, how's this -- Braun's chief campaign strategist is "Whispering" Victor Reyes, Daley's former patronage boss and leader of the HDO.  "Like God, I DON'T play dice and I DON'T believe in coincidence."

Emanuel has a lot of help to keep his skeletons in the closet.  Part of what is running Daley out of office is his privatization of the parking meters.  He rushed the deal through.  Turns out a chunk of that change is going to Abu Dhabi.  Also helping is President Barack Obama.  Emanuel did a 14-month stint (getting paid at least $320K) on the board of Freddie Mac.  They did a lot of risky investments that helped push the economic meltdown to happen.  People are asking for the minutes to the meetings so they can see what exactly Emanuel suggested, approved, endorsed, whatever.  The White House is refusing to make the board meeting minutes public.  Emanuel is dodging, saying the decision to reveal his role is the White House's, not his.  He's claiming that after Thanksgiving, he'll have a plan to sell the public about his big vision for the future of Chicago.

In other words, get ready to grab your ankles.  Everybody, not just Chicago.  It is the third largest city in the country, so they need all the help they can get.....